Birthstone Friday: Amethysts and Crystal Power

John Dyer is one of several gemstones artists who have taken cutting to another level. This 68.49 carat amethyst is one of his Dreamscape™ series. Photo courtesy John Dyer & Co.

Perfect crystals, such a the breathtaking amethyst below, are the jewels of the mineral world. Because of the metaphysical powers attributed to crystals, as well as the real power of quartz crystals, I thought we’d look at that juxtaposition for today’s Birthstone Friday. (Okay, technically today is Thursday. But it’s the last day of February when amethyst reigns as the birthstone. Though, you can still celebrate amethyst until March 20th, since amethyst is also associated with the zodiac sign of Pisces.)

Gemstones are best known in their cut form. You see them in every window in every jewelry store and all over the Internet. (Check out Etsy!) If you go to gem shows, you’ll see thousands more. There are lots of good reasons gemstones are cut. Good cutting directs light into, around, and back out of a gemstone in such a way that light becomes an inseparable part of their beauty. Cutting gives stones their sparkle, can intensify the color, and make them objects of intense desire. Some gemstone carvers not only do all this but create miniature works of art. If you doubt that, simply look at gemstones cut by innovators like John Dyer.

In addition to that, most gemstones simply need help to look their best. Gemstone crystals go through tremendous stresses on their journey to the Earth’s surface. Most don’t make it, or make it in such a damaged shape that they are worthless for jewelry. Once on the surface, they can be dragged down mountainsides and tumbled for years in rivers. But sometimes whole, unsullied crystals do make it to the surface. When they are removed carefully from the pockets where they’ve lived protected for countless millions of years, and when they are of a glorious color, well. Then they’re worth admiring just for themselves.

Gorgeous amethyst crystals with small quartz crystals, from the Jackson Crossroads Mine, Wilkes County, Georgia. USA. Easy to see why people believe in crystal magic. Photo Mia Dixon, courtesy Pala International.

Many jewelry makers are acknowledging that. It’s not all that hard to find gemstone crystals set into earrings or pendants. (Some of those are actually gem material or synthetic material cut into the shapes of crystals, which shows you how popular crystal shapes have become.) But it’s not only the shape but the metaphysical properties associated with the gemstone–and especially the crystal form of the gemstone–that has contributed to the popularity of crystals.

A lot of crystal myth and legend is just that. But quartz (amethyst is a type of quartz) is an unusual stone. It’s piezoelectric. That means that applying pressure to the stone generates electricity and vice versa–applying electricity makes the stone vibrate. The thickness of the stone affects the frequency at which it vibrates. In fact, during WWII, quartz crystals were an integral part of radios. Tons of crystals were cut into slices to enable communication. (If you want to learn more, check out this 42 minute video.) Quartz is used today in watches and clocks to ensure precision timing. Today, most of the material used for this is man-made, or synthetic quartz, not natural quartz cut from mined quartz crystals.

When writing The Listening Heart, I had fun tying this ability of quartz crystals to Stacie’s use of a quartz crystal to augment her second sight abilities. I also took the liberty of including amethyst under the blanket of quartz’s “radio capabilities.” However, to my knowledge, the impurities in amethyst that give the stones their color would make amethyst useless for radio communication. That’s the fun of writing fiction.